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Journalist's bid to drive 4,000-mile journey to Mali for charity after open-heart surgery

Two journalists, one of whom recently underwent open-heart surgery, are planning a 4,000-mile drive from the UK to Mali in an old police car to raise money for three charities.

Freelance Eugene Costello and travel writer Nick Redmayne hope to make the journey to Mali’s capital, Bamako, in about a month, heading through Europe then on to North Africa in their ex-British Transport Police 4×4.

The pair are looking to raise £21,000 to cover their expenses and split an equal share between the British Heart Foundation, the Press Fund and the National Union of Journalists Extra.

They plan to depart the UK on Boxing Day, funds permitting.

Costello, who has written for Press Gazette, is making the journey after suffering a heart attack followed by a stroke this summer. The fact that he was in hospital when these two things happened saved his life.

He admitted himself to A&E after experiencing painful chest pains – which were in fact mini heart-attacks – while on holiday in a small village in the Pyrenees in August, he wrote on the pair’s Go Fund Me page.

In fact he was already having a heart attack when he arrived at Whipps Cross hospital from the airport and was taken straight to the operating theatre, where surgeons performed a triple-heart bypass.

But, during surgery Costello suffered a stroke and other complications. “My body shut down and I stopped breathing – I was on life-support for about ten days, unresponsive,” he said.

“The surgeon later described the events as ‘catastrophic’ and said they would not have been ‘survivable’ had I not been at a hospital – given I was in a tiny village in the Pyrenees 12 hours earlier, it is a miracle I am here.”

Redmayne said he was motivated by a “sense of adventure” to carry out the long journey – which they have dubbed the Timbuktu Challenge.

He said: “When I first mentioned the possibility of this Timbuktu Challenge, Eugene was immediately enthused.

“His proceeding, in-depth exploration of NHS emergency services was not part of the plan. I assumed I’d simply be looking for a new co-driver. Not so.

“The journey of over 4,000 miles will have its travails. If Eugene shares just some of his obviously immense reserve of resilience, any difficulties relating to mechanical failures, digestive uncertainty, bribery, bandits and minefields will be as nought.”

Picture: Google Maps

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